17 August 2010

Sports Illustrated: The Baggy Pants Baseball Uniform Issue


While waiting to see my surgeon, the dour Scotsman, Dr McKenzie, I started reading one of the magazines in the waiting room subscribed to by his partner, the enthusiastic German Dr Dringman, both of them of Surgical Associates fame. The article on Stan the Man Musial by Joe Posnanski was good enough that I couldn't resist hiding the issue (Aug 2-9, the summer double issue) in my baggy pants on the way out so that I could finish it and have something to blog about while drinking my dissolved MiraLax on Tuesday in preparation for a takedown of my colostomy by Dr M on Wednesday morning.


I used to wear heavy, sweaty baggy baseball pants just like Stan Musial and Bob Feller and Dr Bobby Brown and a lot of other guys, so this picture set off an instant train of flashbacks, which included these WWII and Korean War vets—yes they all served unless they were 4-F. Musial was an outfielder, Feller a pitcher and Dr Brown played 3rd base for the New York Yankees while he was going to medical school and studying to be a cardiologist. I'm not sure how he pulled that off but in those days—when the teams travelled by train—the World Series, the October Classic, naturally enough, was played in the early part of October.

My father also served during WWII; he came home from Italy in 1945, guarded some German POWs for awhile, then learned how to be a butcher, and when the local Rock River League team needed some hitting and batting practice pitching help, he dug out his glove and volunteered for that duty too. One of the saddest days that I remember was when I borrowed his glove, one of those old-fashioned ones that if you didn't come up with the ball right in the middle of the pocket it would bounce away in an embarrassing way, and left it out overnight in the rain. There is a picture of one of those gloves on p. 51. I came across this picture of my dad batting at Mathes Park, age 15 or so.

I couldn't hit or throw a ball as well as those guys could in the 1940s but I dreamed along with my friends as we played ball all day all summer long. They are all approaching 90 now so maybe I could keep up with them, if my pending surgery is successful. I know the first two are still autographing baseballs, though I'm not sure about Dr Brown. According to Posnanski, Musial was not only the  favorite of many mid-Western boys—and maybe even a few girls too—but also the respect of every baseball player he would meet. There are a fair number of anecdotes in the article: after Alberto Pujols met Musial he started asking those who called Pujols El Hombre to stop doing that because there was only one The Man; Carl Erskine, a Dodger pitcher of that time, said that "his strategy for pitching Musial was to throw his best stuff, and then back up 3rd base."

One way you can tell if a hitter is hustling on the bases is comparing his doubles and triples. The slackers always have very few triples. Musial led the National League in doubles 8 times and triples 5 times. He was famous for never refusing a request for an autograph. I'm hoping I get a chance to test that out.

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